Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001

Try to imagine: You’re in the cockpit of a 767, heart thumping hard and seeing the towers of the World Trade Center come into view. Without hesitation, you point the nose of the jet directly at one of the towers. You open the throttle, and then, knowing instantly and totally that your life will be over in five seconds, plunge screaming into a flaming oblivion.

Try to imagine: You’re a terrorized hostage in a 767, looking out a window to see the skyline of Manhattan, and then the dark billowing smoke coming from a huge gash in one of the World Trade Center towers. You had hoped against hope that you would get off this plane alive. Now, you know with horrific certainty that somehow, that black smoke means death. You’re not surprised when your plane suddenly banks and heads straight for the other tower.

Try to imagine: You’re in a typical Tuesday morning mood at your desk, sipping coffee, warming up for another workday in your spectacular office on the 93rd floor. You gaze out the window, preparing to indulge in a bit of daydreaming. You see the jet and note that it’s flying a bit low. Then, you see it bank sharply and flatten out, its nose now pointed directly at your lovely little space. In the last five seconds of your life, you discover that your brain completely rejected the realization that it was indeed the last five seconds of your life, on the grounds of total unfairness.

Try to imagine: You’re on board a plane that was supposed to go to San Francisco. Herded into the back of the jet at knifepoint, you now know that you’re not going to get anywhere close to California. Thanks to your cell phone, you hear the unthinkable story in New York. Doom seizes your heart but somehow fails to strangle your wits. Now that you know you’re part of a terrorist kamikaze mission, you’re able to convince several of your fellow passengers that you have absolutely nothing to lose. You call home, say I love you and goodbye. And then, you and your accomplices make your move.

We’re very thankful that you did.

Try to imagine: You’re on the 57th floor of Tower One when the jet smashes into it, but you make it out OK. When you finally hit the street, you hit the street running. And while you’re getting away from the fiery madness, you can’t help but notice that firefighters and cops are running toward it. You don’t give it a second thought. You just keep running. Two days later, you’re back in the Trade Center district, gazing with a mixture of awe and horror at the smoking pile of what used to be. You try not to think of the corpses. On a nearby boom box, a radio station is playing "America the Beautiful." It stops you in your tracks. Suddenly, you can’t swallow. Then, you can’t see.